Manuel: Media coverage on info bill unfair

2012-08-01 22:17
Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel (Beeld)

Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel (Beeld)

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Johannesburg - There has been unfair reporting on the protection of state information bill after the media became embedded in a position on the issue, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said on Wednesday.

"I don't believe there is any government anywhere that does not operate without secrets. We therefore have to work with what we have," he said, according to a copy of a speech delivered to students at the University of Stellenbosch.

Manuel said the Bill of Rights in the Constitution enshrines the right to access to information, with a clause dealing with the limitation of this right.

The Protection of Access to Information Act (Paia) was incorporated in 2000 alongside the Protected Disclosures Act, which deals with whistle-blowers, he said.

"The protection of whistle-blowers cannot be trumped by the bill," he said.

"But Paia has exclusions, including the right to access to medical records of citizens. Other matters that are excluded relate to defence, foreign relations, fighting crime, and intelligence."

Manuel described the Constitution as a Russian doll into which the Paia and the limitations necessary to protect certain information should fit.

He added that the bill could be traced to the values embedded in the Constitution.

"We should not say no to the bill, but rather ask how the bill can be implemented. But that is the kind of conversation South Africans do not seem to want to have," Manuel said.

"If we don't have this bill, we operate under the Official Secrets Act of 1982. What is before us is a significant amendment on the 1982 act."

Manuel also spoke about the National Planning Commission appointed by President Jacob Zuma in 2010 to develop a plan to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

"These are big challenges. If we want democracy and the quality of life we know we are capable of, each one of us has to take the responsibility to lead."

He urged students to take the ideas embedded in the National Development Plan forward.

"We need to involve everybody in taking responsibility. We need active citizenship to root out corruption. If you don't care about democracy, why should government care? All citizens should be active and engaged."

- SAPA
Read more on:    trevor manuel  |  jacob zuma  |  media  |  info bill  |  politics
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